For Patrick Amara, a Philadelphia native and future Pitt football player, it’s hard to find a better role model than Eagles running back and former Panthers star LeSean McCoy.
Easy enough for Amara, who can find McCoy right in his phone’s contacts list.
Amara, a high school senior set to sign with the Panthers in February, has had the chance to meet with McCoy a handful of times and texts back and forth with the Eagles superstar.
The two were connected through a mutual friend, and when McCoy heard that Amara was set to follow in his footsteps to Pitt, he didn’t hesitate to reach out.
Amara even said he plans to start working out with McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing this season, starting in February.
“He’s one of my great mentors,” Amara said. “We just connected from the rip.”
Amara will join the Panthers in fall as a defensive back, so he can’t pick up on any of McCoy’s rushing techniques. In fact, Amara said most of their conversations revolve around what it’s like being a student-athlete at Pitt, rather than any specific football talk.
“He said just focus and give it your all,” Amara said. “It might sound easy, but it’s foreshadowing a great career. Of course he partied, but he put limits, he had restrictions. That led him to where he is now.”
Amara will get a small taste of the college lifestyle this weekend when he takes his official visit to Pitt along with several other high school seniors verbally committed to join the Panthers next season.
“Everyone wants to have fun on their official visit, but I really want to see the academic aspect,” Amara said. “You’re going to spend the next three, four, five years there. I’m really looking forward to the academic side and just the campus. How everybody enjoys it, what it’s like being a student-athlete.”
This weekend also will serve as a chance for some of Pitt’s 2014 recruiting class to bond in person. Amara, especially, has been active on Twitter in recruiting other possible prospects and reaching out to some of his future teammates.
“Of course you want to play with the best guys,” he said. “As soon as I committed, I made an obligation to bring the best players in because eventually I want to be in an ACC championship.”
Amara heard new Penn State coach James Franklin Saturday when Franklin said he plans to “dominate” recruiting in Pennsylvania in his tenure with the Nittany Lions.
Amara admitted that’s what he would expect Franklin to say, but he also remembers his own recruitment, when Penn State stopped recruiting him because of its limited scholarships.
“They were basically saying I wasn’t good enough to play there,” he said.
So even though it’s more than two years away, there’s already one date circled on Amara’s calendar: Sept. 10, 2016, when Pitt and Penn State will meet at Heinz Field for the first time since 2000.
And the never-shy Amara had a message for Pitt’s former and future in-state rivals: “2016, let’s just say it won’t be pretty for Penn State.”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.